AFTER spending the past four years building up the design operations at Great Wall Motors and its subsidiaries in China, former BMW design guru Pierre Leclercq has moved to Kia Motors in South Korea to take on a newly created role as head of styling.
Based at Kia’s design headquarters in Namyang and reporting to Hyundai Motor Group president and chief design officer Peter Schreyer and Kia’s design centre chief Seon Ho Youn, Mr Leclercq is charged with developing Kia’s long-term design strategy and leading “design innovation” for exteriors, interiors, materials and textiles.
The move looks to be an attempt by Mr Schreyer to build more cohesiveness into the Korean brand’s vehicle designs, which vary considerably between markets as regional studios exert their influence across key segments in their patch.
In announcing the appointment, Kia Motors said in a statement that Mr Leclercq would work to “strengthen design co-operation between Kia’s global design network” which, outside of Korea, includes studios in the United States, Europe and China.
The company also says he was hired to help “accelerate the establishment of a consistent design DNA across the expanding Kia model range”.
“Pierre Leclercq has a unique insight into global vehicle design, and brings with him the necessary experience and expertise to help reinforce Kia’s design identity in the coming years,” Mr Schreyer said.
“Design has played a key role in the transformation of the Kia brand, and Pierre will help to ensure our design-led approach remains consistent across new model launches in new segments.”
Belgian-born Mr Leclercq is best known for his work at BMW, where he spent 13 years rising through the ranks and is credited with styling some key vehicles including the first-generation X5 and X6.
Moving to the German prestige brand in 2000 after short stints at Zagato and Ford’s Ghia advanced design studio in Italy, Mr Leclercq spent three years at BMW’s Los Angeles studio working on the X5 and X6 from their conception – and having his design proposal chosen by then design chief Chris Bangle – before transferring to Munich, where as a senior exterior designer he saw both vehicles through to their production form.
He later spent two years as brand design chief for BMW’s M high-performance division, from 2011 to 2013, before being lured to China as vice-president of design for Great Wall Motors.
This was a chance for him to take on a new challenge building the Chinese brand’s design operations – and its international reputation – with responsibility for not only GWM’s main studio in Baoding but an advanced design centre in Shanghai that he established.
He has subsequently overseen the design of a host of production models and concepts, particularly SUVs, from Great Wall and offshoots such as Haval and Wey – all from the ground up – as seen with the recently shown Haval HB-03 coupe-style SUV concept and the 2015 Haval Concept R and B show cars.
“I have watched the development of the Kia brand closely, and I couldn’t be more excited to become a part of this innovative design team,” Mr Leclercq said this week.
“Kia has built a reputation for placing design at the heart of new car development, and I’m eager to work with the talented designers who have made the Kia brand synonymous with bold, energetic and modern vehicle design.”
Among other recent international design postings, Tobias Suehlmann has moved from the design department of Volkswagen to become head of exterior design and creative development for the VW-owned supercar marque Bugatti, reporting to design team chief Achim Anscheidt.
At VW, Mr Suehlmann was responsible for several models such as the new Arteon flagship sedan and the forthcoming next-generation Touareg SUV, plus several concepts including the Golf GTE Sport and the T-Prime GTE.
He also has experience with Mercedes-Benz and PSA Peugeot Citroen.
“Tobias Suehlmann has a great talent and has gained valuable experience,” Mr Anscheidt said. “He is joining our brand at an exciting time when we are working on concepts for the next Bugatti.
“With his passion for high-performance vehicles and his well-developed understanding of brand values, he will be an extremely valuable addition to our highly qualified design team.”
By Terry Martin